5 Ideas to Organize Your Small (Or Tiny) Closet

Small closet organization
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There are a lot of closet organizing tips out there, but if you have a small closet, you probably read them and scoff.

A shoe rack in my closet?  Maybe if I take out all the clothes.

Multiple shelves and racks at different heights? Clearly these people never lived in an apartment.

Recently I saw a suggestion to devote a space in your closet to “outfit inspiration,” illustrated with a photo of mood boards hanging above some flowers in a pot.

If you can barely get your pants in your closet, let alone artwork and living things, here are five basic ways to make the most of your teeny space.

1. Get back to basics.

In a small closet there is less room (and sometimes no room) for additional organizers like drawers and boxes, so you need to work at maximizing closet storage space. You might be able to add some hooks, but mostly you’ll be dealing with simply trying to cram your clothes into the space. This demands your clothes themselves be as organized as you can get them.

Luckily, that’s pretty simple to achieve. First, downsize. Your closet cannot deal with clothes you’re never going to wear again. Second, hang everything on matching hangers facing the same direction. Third, arrange clothes so that skirts, blouses, and so on are grouped, and that only currently worn items are front and center. 

2. Optimize the shape of your particular closet.

All small closets are not alike.

I recently moved from a place with a small, deep closet to one with a small, shallow closet. In the former, I could only hang enough clothes for the current season, but I could stash off-season clothes in bags at the back of the closet floor. In the latter, I can’t store any bulky items, but I can hang all my clothes up and simply push the off-season pieces to one side.

And don’t forget to work with your shape, too. I can barely reach the shelf in my closet, but if you’re tall, think about adding a second shelf or some stacked-up cubbies

3. Seek out minimal organizers.

If you want hooks to maximize storage space, or shelf dividers for your closet, look for the flattest, smallest models you can find. You don’t want your precious space taken up with organizing products. Hooks like this cedar belt keeper, for belts, or this one, which slides over a closet door, can accommodate a lot of things without taking up too much room themselves. You might also try an over-the-door mesh shoe rack

4. Prioritize.

Once your small closet is full of clothes, you’ll probably have just a bit of room left for one or two other types of storage. Maybe you can get your shoes in, but you’ll probably not be able to fit them plus your bags and coats and a large hamper. So some things are going to have to go outside of your closet. I stick boring duffel and overnight bags on the floor of my closet, where no one has to see them, and neatly line up shoes - which are at least designed to be aesthetically pleasing - elsewhere in my apartment. Other non-closet storage options include a coat tree, the backs of other doors, and under-the-bed boxes.

Basically, a small closet forces you to be creative. If you can’t install a beautiful wide closet shelf just for purses, you might be inspired to leave your more interesting purses out as unexpected decorations.

5. If you can’t have built-ins, go for portable storage instead.

You may just have to create your own storage space.  A small closet (especially one in a rental) will probably not be compatible with DIY cabinets or custom doors with hidden shelves. Going all the way in the other direction, towards light and easily moveable storage boxes and bins, can be a much more versatile - not to mention affordable - way to organize a small closet. An open canvas bin can go on a shelf, on the floor, or on any surface in your closet. Best of all, they can be switched around in seconds. Say you have a lot of sweaters taking up your single shelf, and then you give half of them away.

That newly opened space can accommodate some bins of socks you’d placed on the floor, and now some shoes (or anything else) can take their place.